Book Review: Sputnik Sweetheart

SputnikStill sick. Throat is better, though, at least. If the fever went away, all would be well.

Sick or not, I plowed through the first of my library books: Haruki Murakami’s “Sputnik Sweetheart.” I love Murakami. He has a dry, matter-of-fact style of writing that somehow goes together with plots that delve into the unknown. Somehow, he manages to make things that aren’t supposed to be real feel real.

“Sputnik Sweetheart” actually starts out fairly standard in terms of plot and characters. The narrator is pretty much the same character as in “Norweigan Wood” (one of my all-time favorite books), a nice but melancholy guy who gets through life as best as he can without expecting too much from it. He’s in love with a high-strung young woman named Sumire who wants desperately to be a writer, but he knows it would never work, as she only sees him as a friend.

Then one day, Sumire meets and falls in love with a mysterious older woman (Korean, incidentally) called Miu. But Miu has a secret past and keeps the enthralled Sumire at a distance. So far, it’s all very Carson McCullers, in the whole no-way-is-this-love-gonna-end-up-well vein. Then during a trip to Europe, Sumire disappears, and things take the not unexpected turn into surreality Murakami-style.

Does it all work? Well, yes and no. I’m not sure if I LIKED the book, per se, but I’ve been thinking about it all day. It’s driving me crazy in a way, especially the ending, which could really have happened or may just have been a delusion or just an expression of hope. The book draws you completely in and then just ends, no clear answers offered, have a nice day.

Of course, Murakami’s done this before, with “After Dark” (more like a trailer than a complete book) and even with the otherwise brilliant “Kafka On the Shore.” It’s kind of like someone spilling milk on the table and refusing to clean it up; instead, saying, “Look at the interesting shapes the milk makes.”

My cousin, who’s also a huge Murakami fan, has told me that Murakami has a new book out titled IQ84 (a play on the novel, 1984), so I’ll definitely be waiting for that one. Murakami, frustrating as he can be, the man’s a genius.

And he’s obviously a big music fan. So I dedicated this song–my favorite song in Japanese–to him. The title apparently means something like “Cool,” which Murakami definitely is in my book, no pun intended, ha ha ha.

Suteki da Ne – Rikki

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